Fans of New York sports got some exciting news on Wednesday. According to Malika Andrews of ESPN, New York will be making arenas open to the fans again on February 23. “NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced that sports venues can re-open at 10 percent capacity on Feb. 23,” Andrews tweeted on Wednesday Afternoon. “Fans must return a negative PCR test within 72 hours of an event. Masks and social distancing will be required, along with temperature checks.”
Fans To Be Allowed Back in New York Arenas
What does the news mean for New York sports teams that are currently in the midst of their season like the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks? According to Andrews, the Knicks will re-open their doors to fans on February 23 when they take on Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Up to 2,000 fans will be allowed in Madison Square Garden. As for the Brooklyn Nets, fans will finally get to see the ‘big three’ of James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving in person when they take on the Sacramento Kings on February 23.
How important is in-person attendance for New York sports? New York Daily News reporter Kristian Winfield tells me it is one of the only things stopping the Nets from being New York’s Team. “Part of what makes the Knicks so special is that Madison Square Garden is so beautiful and so fun is that there’s just a natural electricity in that arena,” says Winfield.
Players Sound off on Playing Without Fans
Players have been forced to adjust to a brand new version of the NBA ever since the restart back in 2020 when fans were not allowed to attend games in the NBA Bubble. Multiple players and analysts have emphasized the importance of fans and how their absence immensely changes the game.
“It feels different playing in a high level-type game without fans,” said Hall of Famer Reggie Miller said to the Indianapolis Star. “I want people to understand: Fans are so important to our game because it’s that energy that they bring on certain plays.”
2020 Finals MVP LeBron James was also wary of the change of scenery and what it means game-wise. “What is the word ‘sport’ without ‘fan’?” he asked on the Road Trippin’ podcast via ESPN. “There’s no excitement. There’s no crying. There’s no joy. There’s no back-and-forth. … That’s what also brings out the competitive side of the players, to know that you’re going on the road in a hostile environment and yes, you’re playing against that opponent in front of you, but you really want to kick the fan’s ass too.”
Ironically, King James is also the king of being heckled, as his recent altercation with an Atlanta Hawks fan shows. But even in all the chaos, he finds joy in having people back in the arenas. “At the end of the day, I’m happy fans are back in the building,” LeBron said via CBS Sports. “I miss that interaction. I need that interaction. We as players need that interaction.”